The termination of a contract with the state nearly four years ago has put the Casper-Natrona County Health Department in a bind, its director said Tuesday.

"The state used to provide nine nursing staff to come to work on behalf of our county," Dr. Kelly Weidenbach said after meeting with Casper City Council during a work session.

But the former director ended that in July 2011.

"Upon the termination of that contract, we lost a lot of very qualified staff members and some of our services," she said. "We saw a decrease in the number of people we that we could see for certain services."

The state otherwise pays for a number of mandatory services such as restaurant inspections and disease outbreak investigations, but it does not cover for non-mandatory services that may be important to the local community, Weidenbach said.

For example, the adult health program performs about 4,600 home visits a year for about 100 clients, she said.

The department hasn't cut any programs, but the fallout of the canceled public health nursing contract has spread the work load thin among the staff.

"The impact on our budget has been pretty catastrophic," Weidenbach said. "We have been dipping into our reserve funds since the termination of this contract. This last year, we've had a planned budget deficit of about a half-a-million dollars."

She has implemented some changes in business practices to reduce the deficit, she said.

But the department still needs additional funding, Weidenbach said.

Historically, the city and the county have allocated about $600,000 a year to the department. Other revenues from grants, program revenues and state nursing funds bring the total income to about $2.8 million.

She hasn't made a formal request yet, but she said she probably will ask the city and the county each to pony up an additional $100,000 to $150,000 a year. There also is a supplemental budget request before the Legislature for public health nursing services.

"We're hoping to see increases in funding from all of our typical funding sources -- from the city and the county and the state -- just to bring us back up to a feasible operating budget, and just to keep the skeleton staff that we have operating without a deficit," Weidenbach said.

More From K2 Radio